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The perfume of my childhood home


I was going to post some New Year’s resolutions such as: “Understand the meaning of ‘Netflix streaming'”, so that I might one day trade my addiction to House Hunters marathons and Real Housewives of Insert-city-here episodes for some of the high quality viewing available through Netflix – or heck, maybe HBO or Showtime. Yeah, that’s right, we’ve never subscribed to any of the premium cable channels. But alas – those resolutions – at least the thinking and the drafting of them part – are on hold ’til later. In the meantime, here is something I wrote in response to a writing prompt.

My mom liked to clean so I suppose the perfume of my childhood home was Murphy Oil Soap for hardwood floors or whatever name brand cleaning solution is used to polish silver with. She was a meticulous person and sometimes spent hours rubbing polish on silver or wood.

At least, I think she did. But I was very young when she had time for that kind of polishing so maybe I made that part up.

Some days it was the smell of lilacs in the spring. But they didn’t last long – by June they faded just as the geraniums started to bloom. If I have the timing wrong it’s because I really don’t remember what month the lilies faded or the geraniums bloomed – or if we even had geraniums. But I think we did.

No, I’m pretty sure we did.

When the perfume of my childhood home wasn’t filled with cleaning solution or lilacs or geraniums – imaginary or not – I suppose it might have been my dad’s cologne – Aqua or Old Spice. I remember him splashing some on his hands, then slapping his neck and face with cologne as though he was trying to knock himself out. He always smelled pretty heavenly.

Or, did he?

Does my grandmother’s house count?

Because if it does, she soaked her dentures in Listerine every night; and her bathroom reeked of antiseptic. She was the only female blood relation to cook fried chicken so sometimes her house smelled of things you couldn’t wait to eat.

Actually, I only remember the one time she made fried chicken but she was big on serving Neapolitan ice cream for dessert and that didn’t have any sort of smell – it just tasted rich and creamy. Well, at least the vanilla and strawberry parts. I liked chocolate the least.

Truthfully, I’m not sure about the accuracy of the fried chicken or ice cream story, either.

My other grandmother had a pool in her backyard so sometimes her house smelled like chlorine, and rubber bathing caps, the squeaky kind that hurt when you took them off.

She also filled candy dishes with gum drops, especially the ones that looked like orange slices coated in sugar. This I am sure of. And while they didn’t have a particular scent whenever I see a bag of sugar-covered orange slices at Rite-Aid I am reminded of her.

Well…I am also reminded of my son who sometimes brings home a bag of sugar-covered orange slices after filling up the tank at the gas station.

As I have never bought sugar-covered orange slices for either of my kids I think that is one strange coincidence.

Speaking of that, my son also likes Circus Peanuts, those peach colored, foam-like candies in the shape of a peanut.

So did my Dad.

Oh. My. God.

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January 10, 2013 - 3:48 pm

BECKY - What a great post, Pam! I have fond memories of aromas such as: Jergens hand lotion, Coppertone suntan oil, fried chicken, and fresh cut lawns! Your description of the old bathing caps is PERFECT! I always had the plain white ones (cheapest) but my older sisters had fancy, flowery ones! Thanks for a trip down memory lane…even though you don’t seem sure WHAT you remember! LOL

January 10, 2013 - 5:48 pm

Pam Houghton - Thanks, Becky! I love the smell of Jergens and Coppertone and fresh cut lawns, too. Hey, I’ve tried to subscribe to your blog but it seems it doesn’t have a way to subscribe by e-mail. Did I miss something?

January 10, 2013 - 10:21 pm

BECKY - Oh, Thanks Pam. I haven’t set that up, but I can…for you! 🙂
You can also add me to your Blog List and my new posts will show up there. Want to try that, or do you prefer e-mails?

January 11, 2013 - 11:49 am

wendy mccance - I loved this post. My memories tend to stem from smells or music. My kids think I’m batty when I smell something and go into a story from my past. I think they roll their eyes when I turn my head away from them. 🙂

January 11, 2013 - 2:54 pm

Pam Houghton - I can add you to my blog list. I certainly have the room! 🙂 Feel free to add mine to yours if you have one. Thanks!

January 11, 2013 - 2:54 pm

Pam Houghton - Thanks, Wendy. Your kids sound typical! 🙂

January 14, 2013 - 6:12 pm

Pat - Enjoyed this read Pam and it brought up some perfume memories of my own. I loved how you compared the perfumes from your home growing up to your grandmother’s. There were sure different smells if I may just add a couple of my own.

The fizzy smell of Coca-Cola. It brings up the memory of popping open a Coke on a hot, summer day when it used to be in bottles from an old bottle opener attached to the end of the counter.

And also thought I’d add a grandmother perfume too I remember. It was the smell of Ben-Gay my grandparents applied every night.

So many more I could mention. Thank you for your reflections and the opportunity to dip back in time.

January 14, 2013 - 6:28 pm

Pam Houghton - Fizzy smell of Coke – yes, I love that one. So distinct! And I loved drinking it from a bottle. There was something so grown up about that. Thanks for reading, Pat!

January 14, 2013 - 10:56 pm

Johnny Velazquez, PhD - Hi Pam, Enjoyed your post.Every time I smell the aroma of certain coffee, it brings back beautiful memories of my parents, sitting around the kitchen table, drinking Bustelo coffee, a strong Spanish brand. We, the children would listen, as my parent would swap childhood stories. Those were great moments. Thank you so much for this post which brings to rememberance all those unique, and memorable memories of my loving parents. Blessings.

January 15, 2013 - 12:01 am

Pam Houghton - Johnny, thanks for stopping by! Glad the post let you conjure up a few memories of your own. Bustelo coffee sounds intriguing!

January 15, 2013 - 4:51 am

in pursuit - Love your writing! Yes, I have come to you from Searching for the Happiness, like many others. The sense of smell is so amazing to me as well. Funnily enough, I can never remember stuff and recall the smell. It’s the smell that prompts the recall of a memory. I guess most people are like t hat.

My two memory inducing scents are pennies and butane lighters. No, I did not live as a hobo as a child;) My maternal grandmother used to let us play “movies” as a kid. She’d set up candy on the kitchen table and give us pennies to “buy our candy” before she put on a movie. Sadly, I can’t remember a single movie. But I remember holing my pennies in my fist and I remember falling in love with Mr. Goodbars for the first time. And the butane? My paternal grandmother was a smoker. I thougth it was awesome. I loved her lighter and I loved that she could make smoke rings. It was really cool. She once told me she’d leave me that lighter eventhough I dont’ smoke. She’s 96 and tends to ask me the same questions 53 times, so I asssume she forgot that promise of long ago. If not, I sure won’t be able to do anything cool like blow smoke rings, though.

Thanks for reminding me of great memories and for sharing your beautiful storytelling skills!
Vicky

January 15, 2013 - 5:57 am

Jo-Anne Meadows - Old Spice now that makes me think of my dad he wore it all the time hell he still wears it…….when he can get it………….lol When I think of my nan I think of the smell of freshly cooked homemade chips……..

I popped on over from someones blog, who’s blog…………..let me think damn it I shouldn’t have closed the tab bloody hell who was it…….oh yeah it was Wendy…….well I think it was Wendy I’m really not sure and I am rambling again oh well glad I came for a visit and you know I will be back. Hope you’re ok with that, if not just pretend you are because I do not take rejection well……….lol

January 15, 2013 - 1:53 pm

Pam Houghton - Hi Vicky,
What wonderful, fun memories. Love both stories and your grandmothers sound terrifically fun. Thanks for stopping by!

January 15, 2013 - 1:54 pm

Pam Houghton - I don’t take rejection well either, Jo-Anne! Ha! Come back any time…thanks for stopping by.

January 15, 2013 - 11:33 pm

Susan Cooper - I loved this and it brought some memories for me about the true smell of candles, not the scented kind. It resonates home and happiness to me. I remember to smell of my Mom’s pot-roast and boy do I miss her now. Thank for this. 🙂

January 16, 2013 - 2:59 pm

Pam Houghton - Thanks for reading, Susan. Mmm…pot roast. It does have a wonderful smell, doesn’t it?

January 18, 2013 - 4:14 pm

fadedginger - I am glad I’m not the only one who mistrusts her own childhood memories. I do know that the scent of my childhood was ashtray. Both my parents were smokers, and they did not believe in open windows.

~Ginger Kay @AFadedGinger (Blogger insists on making me anonymous.)

January 18, 2013 - 4:57 pm

Pam Houghton - Oh, yes, the smell of ashtrays. That smell was everywhere as there were a lot more smokers back then. Good recall on a childhood smell! 🙂

January 29, 2013 - 2:59 pm

Eve - What a great post Pam! I love the smell of Jergen’s lotion and soap too…and Dial. My Mom always used Dial soap. Another smell I love is cucumbers…and the smell of a pizza place in a mall always reminds me of my first job.

January 29, 2013 - 4:49 pm

Pam Houghton - Hey Eve! Thanks! I love all those smells, too…Jergen’s lotion…yep, we had that around. I still use Dial soap but they come in many different fragrances now. Have a great day!
Pam

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